Welcome to another installment in my new World Builders series! I’m excited to now offer this series Monday, Wednesday, and Friday of every week until the end of September, in an effort to spotlight some of the great talent in the Inkshares Nerdist Collection Contest.
Today I pleased to feature author K.E. Madsen!
Kate Madsen grew up loving reading and writing. Currently she’s working towards an Associate of Arts at Kirkwood Community College. Kate has been featured in her high school art magazine for poetry and several drawing. She grew up in Iowa and has lived there most of her life.
I’ve connected with Kate through Inkshares at the start of the Nerdist contest and thought I might ask her about her world building process.
Here is her unique perspective. Fantasy writers, take some notes!
#1: What is the appeal of world-building to you? How does it compare to the importance of character and plot?
World building helps give the background to the characters and a sense of how cultures and countries are put together. Without world building, the writer doesn’t have a basis for the characters. The background of each character can be better fleshed out with world building. Characters can develop individualities by giving details about the country they live in or come from. I believe without world building plot can suffer, because the reader may not get a good sense of the world the writer creates.
#2: Do you have a technique for keeping track of world-building as you go? How do you ensure your material is easily retrievable and easy to modify?
One of the main ways to keep track of my world building is to write out descriptions of each country. I also usually chart out any religions, or any aspects that will come up in the novel. Also, a map can help with keeping an idea of where thing are, as well as keeping track of any travel the character makes during their journey. A map can give you a better sense of the distance between locations, how long a journey will take place. I generally try to re-read any outlines of countries or worlds every once in a while to refresh my mind when I’m writing.
#3: What are some fundamental rules to world-building you would say are important to every writer in the fantasy genre?
Several important rules to world-building would be describe as much as possible, map out areas, and keep it organized. Since writers have to rely on a mental image of their world, keeping it organized is key. That way you don’t forget what the terrain or environment is. Readers will pick up if things don’t stay consistent. Describing and mapping out are also key. Knowing your world and keeping it on track can be difficult. I use Evernote to keep my ideas straight, but a Word document or Excel sheet can also be useful.
#4: Do you have a technique for keeping track of world-building as you go? How do you ensure your material is easily retrievable and easy to modify?
I mentioned Evernote in the question above, but mainly I use Microsoft Word. I keep a document separate from my actual novel. I put page breaks in the document to keep character descriptions, countries, etc., separated. It helps keep me organized and I can simply move down a page to get to another part of my world-building. Evernote is quite handy for me as well, due to being able to keep each world-building aspect in different notes, but in the same file.
#5: How has your world-building process evolved over time?
When I first started writing, we’ll go with at the young age of fifteen or sixteen, I didn’t do any world-building. It shows when I reread my old writing. As I grew as a writer, I started to develop world-building. Only once I really became serious about my writing did I start extensively working on world-building. It’s something I’m still working on and I believe it’s a constant skill a writer can always continue to develop.
#6: What tips do you have for aspiring fantasy writers on how to create a solid, believable world?
Read, read, read. Look at every example of world-building and go from there. One of my favorite world-builder writers is Tamora Pierce. She has such beautiful world-building in her writing. She gives a complete world without cluttering up her novels with excessive descriptions. Don’t copy a writer’s world-building style, but use it as a starting block to build off your own writing. Even if you don’t use everything that you build, it’s important. Getting a complete world is important, because focusing on just a country or two and not building off of that can make the world-building incomplete.
Thanks, Kate, for sharing! Now here’s the fantasy / YA fiction book that’s resulted from Kate’s world building:
Raised by adopted parents, Elwyn discovers a surprising event on her sixteenth birthday that changes her whole world. Wanting to find out who she really is, Elwyn leaves home to go on a long adventure. Finding new friends along the way, she journeys towards her past.
Silver Eyes is currently being crowdfunded on inkshares.com and is an entrant in the Nerdist Collection contest. Find out more about it here.
Here is a short excerpt:
I mounted Merle, waved one last goodbye, and headed into the forest.
The air was cool under the thick crowns of the treetops and the cheery sounds of birds chirping echoed throughout the forest. According to Papa as long as I headed north-east, I’d reach the university in six days. Using my compass I found north-east and started heading towards the university.
Once the sun set I stopped and made camp. After taking care of Merle I starting a fire, ate some food, and laid out my sleeping mat. Merle was content to stay by my fire and graze on the grasses. That night I didn’t sleep very well. Despite my best efforts, a few stones and sticks remained under my sleeping mat and poked at my back. The sounds of the forest were louder than when I slept indoors. I kept thinking I heard creatures coming to get me, even though I was safe near my fire.
The next morning I grumpily and sleepily ate some bread cleaned up my camp. Merle patiently waited for me as I slowly saddled him. Hiding a yawn I mounted and began again.
The days went by and I picked a slow rhythm. I made sure to ration my food so I wouldn’t run out too quickly. It was difficult and my stomach rumbled occasionally during our journey. Sleeping on the ground was a bit easier, but I was getting saddle sores from the long rides. To help this I lead Merle instead of riding him. As we traveled deeper into the forest the trees became larger, the moss and forest mast thicker. I even saw a few deer, but they turned white tails when they caught my scent. The weather was dry and the days were hot and sticky.
We stopped at every creek I found so I could splash cold water on my face and let Merle drink. So far we met no predators, but I knew our luck would run out the further we traveled from the towns.
I was leading Merle down a short drop, a creek gurgling below, when Merle suddenly stopped. He dug his front hooves into the ground. “What is it Merle?” I asked softly watching him for his reactions.
The whites of his eyes began to show and I heard the howl of a wolf, then another. Their lean bodies melted out from under the brush white teeth gleaming in the morning light. I knew I had to get out of there quickly. I leapt onto his back, grabbed the reins, and kicked him into a gallop. Guiding him through the trees wasn’t easy. The underbrush was thick, but it was harder to get away from the wolves. I kept hearing their howls as they ran after us, their lean bodies weaving deftly between the trees. Merle managed to outrun them as we reached a large meadow, his hooves digging into the grass. Their howls quieted and I even saw one or two slink back into the forest to go after slower prey.
Once we outran them Merle calmed down his ears pivoting forward and I slowed him down to a trot then a walk. His nostrils were bright red as his breath rushed in and out, his coat covered in a thin layer of sweat. “You did good Merle,” I said patting his neck as I made him walk. “Once you cool down we can take a break and you can get some water.”
He snuffed at me but continued walking as he slowly cooled down. “You are very smart not to let him drink right after a run like that,” a voice said.
Turning around in my saddle I tried to see who was there. “I’m down here, silly girl. Why is it that no one sees me?” The voice said sadly.
The tall grasses rustled and out hopped a red furred lion head rabbit. “W-wait you can talk?” I stuttered watching Merle to see if how he reacted.
“You really should try to make up your own mind, that horse doesn’t know everything,” the rabbit said wriggling its small pink nose.
“Merle sensed wolves earlier and I’ve known him for most of my life, I trust him,” I replied irritation rising in my voice.
Merle stopped, his head lowering to sniff the talking rabbit. His ears were pricked forwards curiously. “Well hello there strange horse,” the rabbit said.
“His name is Merle,” I replied.
I dismounted and crouched down in front of the rabbit, careful of my sword. The rabbit hopped forwards watching me with strange blue human-like eyes. “What’s your name?” I asked.
The rabbit turned its nose upwards. “You don’t dance around the subject do you?”
“Why should I?” I asked curiously. “Why can you talk?”
“I was enchanted,” it replied. “An unfortunate meeting with a sorcerer. I used to be human.”
“Meilyr where are you?” A deep voice suddenly called from the forest edge. “Do you want to get into trouble with those wolves again?”
The rabbit sighed and called back in as loud a voice a rabbit could muster. “Philip I’m over here and I’m perfectly safe!”
More grasses rustled and my eyes widened and my jaw dropped. Philip’s voice belonged to a tall centaur carefully picking his hooves through the dead leaves. His black hair was pulled back into a ponytail and his skin was a dark ebony brown. His horse parts were a gray roan and a large broadsword was strapped to his back. “There you are Meilyr I told you not to go hopping off no matter if you smelled clover,” he said his leaf green eyes catching Merle and me. “Excuse me, I didn’t know my friend had company.”
I stood barely reaching his shoulders. “My name is Elwyn Norwood and this is Merle,” I said.
“A pleasure to meet you Miss Elwyn,” Philip replied folding a muscular arm across his bare chest and making a short bow. “I am Philip Oreseda. I will allow my rabbit friend to introduce himself.”
The rabbit stood his tallest puffing out his fluffy red chest. “I am Meilyr,” he said proudly.
A giggle escaped my lips and I crushed a very large urge to scoop up Meilyr up and snuggle him. “It’s a pleasure to meet you both,” I replied making a small bow as well.
“What is a young lady and her horse doing in the forest?” Philip asked curiously.
“It’s a long story,” I replied with a sigh. “I’m not sure I even understand it myself.”
“We have time, I know I always enjoy a good tale,” Meilyr replied.
Merle nudged me. “First I have to get Merle’s saddle off and rub him down,” I replied turning around to pat him on the nose.
Philip walked towards Merle and looked him over. “He is very well kept, I thank you for taking such good care of him. I have seen my horse brethren mistreated. It saddens me to see them,” he replied. “My people have laws against interfering with anyone who does mistreat horses. We don’t interact with humans vey frequently to prevent breaking the laws.”
Merle reached his head out towards Philip snuffling, his ears perked forwards. I pulled his saddle off and grabbed his blanket to rub him down. “My Papa and I raised him from a foal, he acts like a large dog around me,” I said scratching his ears.
A smile curved upon Philip’s lips, “I can see that,” he replied.
Meilyr watched as I took care of Merle. I led Merle to the creek, letting him drink. Once he was finished he wandered over to nibble on some grasses. The grass felt good as I sat down and Meilyr hopped forwards. “May I sit in your lap?” He asked ears perked ahead.
“Of course Meilyr,” I replied smiling.
He curled up in my lap, his fur warming my breeches. “How long have you been enchanted Meilyr?” I asked stroking his fur.
“I was enchanted when I was nineteen and it’s been about fourteen years since that day. It’s harder to keep count when you’re a rabbit,” he replied.
“Do you miss your home?” I asked.
“The curse must have made me forget where I’m from. I don’t remember anything except that I was enchanted, and my name. Luckily Philip found me. He’s helped me stay safe until I can find a way to break this enchantment,” he replied. “If I don’t, then I’ll spend the rest of my life trapped as a rabbit.”
His ears drooped and a small rabbit sigh left his body. “I said I would tell you my tale,” I said trying to cheer him up.
Meilyr’s ears perked up and he looked up at me. His strange human-like eyes still unnerved me a little while he watched me, but I began my tale.
If you enjoyed what you read here and would like to help bring this book to life, please go over to Inkshares cast your vote by pre-ordering a copy.
Inkshares is a crowdfunding publisher who chooses which books to publish based on whether enough readers have shown interest in them. Successful projects have been reviewed in the NYT, US Today, and Washington Post, and have been distributed to numerous bookstores including Indigo and Barnes & Noble.
You can also connected with Kate in the following places:
Website (Tumblr): http://k-e-madsen.tumblr.com/